By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Editor
“It was the best decision I ever made. I want to thank the person who fueled my motivation to open this place.”
Ten years ago last month, Gina Rowe took a gamble on a tiny little corner of Sullivan’s Island and opened her dream business, a hair salon called Beauty and the Beach.
Today, working under the watchful eye of George Washington (the first dollar she earned in the salon has pride of place on the wall), Gina is clearly in her element.
“I had a vision right off the bat when I saw this space, it was just me,” Gina said. “It took us less than six weeks to get it ready.”
The tiny salon, easily identified by the brightly colored beach ball hanging out front, has buckets of charm, highlighted by the natural light streaming in through four large windows. Sitting in Gina’s chair, taking in prime views of Middle Street, you’re truly in the heart of Sullivan’s Island.
Born and raised in Greenville, SC, Gina has been a hairdresser for 30 years. She and her husband, Andy, moved to Mount Pleasant two decades ago. After working for other people for most of her career, Gina decided to strike out on her own.
“There wasn’t a hair salon out here on Sullivan’s then,” she said. “I’m the only one and have been for 10 years.”
The last decade has largely been smooth sailing. The biggest challenge, according to Gina, has been finding parking for her customers outside her storefront in Sullivan’s Island’s small commercial district.
“Other than that it pretty much runs itself,” she said.
She says the best thing about owning her own business is the freedom.
“Being able to come and go as I want,” she said. “Plus, it’s always fun here. You have a bad day and you come in and somebody sits in your chair and everybody’s happy.”
She also loves the camaraderie of life on the island.
“People will pop in the door just to say hey, or bring me a snack. It’s just like a little neighborhood.”
Of course, it is a little neighborhood, and Gina is at its heart. In the long tradition of village hairdressers, she is the conduit through which all information flows. Need a recommendation for a painter? Home builder? Restaurant?
“I’ll hook them up with somebody,” she said. “I market everybody.”
As for the traditional role of a hairdresser – that of a confidant and friend – it’s here that Gina really excels.
“All my customers are considered friends. I have a relationship with everybody. And yes, hairdressers know everything, but we don’t tell anything!”
After a decade by the beach, Rowe is looking forward to many more years here, but perhaps not another ten.
“I don’t know if I’ll be here for 10 more years,” she said. “I’m hoping to pass it along to Brooker, if I’m lucky enough to retire.”
A licensed cosmetologist, Stolte is Gina’s assistant and protégée.
“I would really like to say thanks to everybody for the support and all the good times,” Gina said. “And, please, keep coming!”